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Magic Core 2019 Set

Core sets return with Core 2019 and it seems that the rule of 5’s is firmly in place. Five Planeswalkers and 5 elder dragons bookend a 280 card set that is all about the action.  Dragons, Elves, Zombies, and Nicol Bolas…(wait, is it the planeswalker or elder dragon?  Ah, what the hell…lets make it both!), this set may cover the basics, but basic, it ain’t.   Prerelease the week of July 7th, Release the week after.

 

Found Dad (& Grandpa) hiding at a garage sale…the power of old games-a Father’s day story

I didn’t expect it when I opened the box.  The intense rush of feelings that flooded over me as I not just looked at, but felt the feeling in the cards.  I’ve opened a ton of these, old games acquired in garage sales, previous loved goodies waiting to find new homes. One of the main reasons I love the store is getting a chance to find ways to get families to spend more time with each other, using the games an excuse to connect. I know this, I do it all the time.  But knowing it in your head is one thing….feeling it in your heart is something else.  I found two games yesterday, one of which turned out to have my Dad inside, the other had my grandfather.

I had a hint at how important games could be last Halloween, that I wrote about once before.  It was this tall dad (looked like a professional sports player guy) and his probably 9 year old daughter.  They came in to trick or treat, but both of them lit up like fireflies when they saw what kind of store they had walked into.  She moved from game to game with a look that, when matched with her dad’s, immediately revealed the image of days spent, sprawled out on a floor together, playing games.  For them, they looked at the games, and what they saw wasn’t fun, it was love.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I still think about them once in a while and it’s hard not to feel my heart fill too. .

The games I picked up yesterday were Mille Borne and Chinese Checkers.   This particular copy of Mille Borne was from 1971.  It could have been the copy I played a thousand times with my Dad when I was a kid, and as I felt the worn softness of the cards, it was not a memory as much as an emotional evocation that hit me so hard.    Sounds or smells can have the same effect, but I didn’t expect it from the game. My dad was a big game player, but hadn’t picked up so well that it’s not only ok for parents to lose to their kids, but that it is actually an kind of an art. But Milles Borne had this great blend of strategy and chance that evened things out. Somehow there were a ton of life lessons in that game.  Do you speed like crazy for the finish line, getting less points but going for the quick win, Putting down your super protections in advance, or holding on, waiting for the whoo  hoo moment of a Coup-fourré.  I think that’s the moment I remember most….it was satisfying as heck to beat my dad, both cause it felt good and because even then I knew that it made him proud when I could beat him.    But it reminded me in a very visceral way why playing games with your kids isn’t a extra thing to do if you have time…but something that will live with them forever. 

 Chinese Checkers is my grandfather…or at least brings him back to life for me whenever I see a set, particularly an old set.   The family legend is that he brought Chinese Checkers into the country.  I did a bunch of research and their may be some truth to it.  He was an entrepreneurial guy. An immigrant who got a job as a buyer at the May Company (think early Macy’s) based on completely made up experience.  The story of how he brought Chinese Checkers to Leo Pressman, founder of Pressman Toys (and the lawsuit for a whopping $5000 that let him open a furniture store in Denver), I’ll save for another day.

 

 

Magic Battlebond – Two-Headed Giant Set

Meet Battlebond,

This is a special Magic Set built for our very favorite format, Two-Headed Giant.  Features two new mechanics, Assist that basically lets your partner help with the “rent” (paying for the cost of creature or spell.) and Partner with, a pair of creatures (or planeswalkers) who let either teammate hunt through their deck to find it’s mate and bring it to hand. 

 

Announcements

12/29/17  Biggest Sale of the year…Pop up sales event….

  • Pokemon

    • League  on… 11-1 Pokemon League
  • Magic–.
    • Friday
      • Unsatable For FNM!!! @ 7 pm
    • Saturday:
      • 4 pm..Unstable THG-$20 pp
    • Sunday–
      • Open at 10 am.  1 pm Master’s Sealed- $90 $60 (2 Iconic, 3 Modern (2015 & 2017) and 1 Eternal Masters). Requires minimum of 4 players.

Here is a sealed and draft simulator loaded with the new cards…Draftsim

 

 

The Secret Life of Adults (and other kids)-The “right thing” if someone dies

[This article is part of a series where we reveal stuff that adults or kids don’t usually admit to each other.  Mostly it’s me fessing up to my secret thoughts or stuff I’ve done that maybe I shouldn’t have.]

One of the people at the store just lost their Dad, and my heart is kinda breaking for them as I write this.  I’m (like everyone else around him and his family) trying to figure out what the “right” thing is to say. And I want let him know that there are tons of ways that are normal to react to this, that there is no “right” way for him to feel, that whatever he’s feeling, it really is ok.  The truth is that everybody has a hard time figuring this out.

It feels like you should know the right thing to say or do when you find out about a loss that is just to big too imagine. If is a friend or someone we love, we tend fall back on “I’m so sorry for your loss” and “Is there anything I can do”.  And if it is you, you accept those words in a blur, unable to believe that the rest of the world is still going on as usual when everything has just completely changed.  Trying to figure out the right thing to do or feel makes a really tough time, much tougher.

If you are going through this, and this is intended for our friend, this stuff comes at you as it comes, and it’s all ok. All the cliche stuff has some basis in truth, but the order of what you are going through, and when or if you go through it is different for each person.

  • For some people, it hits them like a hammer to the gut right away.
  • For others, they feel bad that they don’t feel “enough” at the beginning.
  • Some people reach out to their friends and loved ones for support, others don’t want to talk about it.
  • Some take great comfort from the people who reach out, others snap back at them, because how can they understand?
  • Some put on a brave face to show that they are ok, and that no one needs to worry about them.
  • Some focus all their attention of taking care of the others in their family who are hurt.
  • Some just put all the feelings away to deal with later
  • Some just cry until they can’t cry anymore
  • Some write or draw or do anything else they can to either process or distract themselves
  • And a thousand other things…

Win with Grace, Lose with Style, Play for fun…The rules of the store and The Elections… (Or, don’t listen to them, listen to me…)

Win with Grace, Lose with Style, Play for fun…The rules of the store and The Elections… (Or, don’t listen to them, listen to me…)

I can’t believe I need to write this, but clearly I do.  The election is about to happen, and regardless of the outcome, it’s important to know that not only have the people running acted in ways that we shouldn’t emulate, that honestly, if they’d been in the store, we would have had a little private chat about the rules.
pic-of-d20-store-rules(I actually work hard to keep politics out of the store….there are certain issues, particularly those with deeply held personal beliefs, that once you start engaging in, it becomes hard to see someone who disagrees with you as anything beyond someone who is “other”, and this is a place for treating each other with respect so we can have (gasp) fun with each other.  I’m not going to change that policy now.  I have my own preferences, but I won’t push them on anybody.)
    • No Bad Language:   This rule extends beyond just swearing, but to smack talk in general.  Basically anything that is aimed at the purpose of making someone else feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or to attack their self-worth or self-confidence is just not ok. It doesn’t do anything besides make the other person like you less and poisons the ability to talk with each other and have fun.  Sure we compete and do our best to win, but none of that requires or is benefited by being mean.
Given that, I do feel like I need to say something about one aspect of all of this.  The idea of  elections is to choose people, in the case of the legislators (the law makers) who will act on our behalf to make the laws that will allow us to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And in the case of the president, that person is the citizen that we choose to act on our behalf in making sure those laws are enforced, in being our face to the world, to act when disasters happen, and to protect us and those we feel need protecting on our behalf.  They are both part of the check and balance of power on each other, come up with by our founding fathers who saw just what went wrong when all the power was in the hands of one person with the kings that ignored the will of the people, or with the will of the people when the passions of a moment turned them from people to the mob, as happened in France, who’s persecuted turned to persecutors, filling baskets with the remnants of their vengeance.
    • No Roughhousing or unwanted physical contact:  Not a place for grabbing, hitting or physically hurting other people.  (And no, if another player says that they will pay to get you out of trouble if you go and hurt someone that is annoying them, you’ll both get kicked out.)  Hurting someone, or encouraging someone else to hurt someone is utterly unacceptable.
The law makers are supposed to be our avatars….working together on our behalf, and the President should be the best of us, the person who we most trust to do the right thing when the clock is ticking and to lead and inspire us.
    • Good sportsmanship:  If you win or you lose, reach across the table, shake hands and say good game.  Those who do will have fun every-time, not just when they win, and get a chance to learn and get better.  Nobody wants to play or even be around someone who comes up with excuses why they didn’t win, particularly before the match even begins.
There has been behavior that has happened, over and over again in this campaign that, far from inspiring us and giving us things to aspire to, is so bad that if it happened in the store, I’d have to pull someone aside and have a quiet talk about treating each other with respect and trying to work things out.    For my young players, who’ve done so well at bringing out the best in each other, at turning away from teasing, name-calling and bad sportsmanship, know that for many of us adults, we are also looking in disbelief at presidential candidates who act with the language of frustrated little kids.
In terms of our Senators and Congresspeople, if we just wanted to have you vote on party lines, not actually talk with each other about the merits of each law, we can do that.   You guys can sit on the side, writing petitions, and we’ll vote from home.  Or we can just send one of those pecking water bird toys that hits the same button over and over again.
There are a lot of things wrong with the system at this point. Hidden money making it so our representatives need to give access to those with bigger pockets, often over doing the right thing for those of us who elected them. Legislators living in such fear of being singled out and attacked by their own parties, that the idea of reaching out to the other side and talking things through puts them at real risk.  Would any of us act that way?  Do we want those who are acting for us doing that?  (Here is an amazing video about what has happened over the last 50+ years in congress)
https://youtu.be/tEczkhfLwqM
But what we have to do is remember that the system was set up by some pretty smart people, (people like us), who tried to figure out the best way to do things and to set up systems of checks and balances that would keep things stable while they were working, but allow for changes (amendments) if something was clearly not working the way that they intended.  If you get frustrated, remember that, and then work to understand why and make things better.
And one final thing.  Every one of you that comes to the store on a regular basis, behaves better then what we are seeing in front of us.  So if that little voice inside says, “this isn’t a good person to try and be like”, pay attention to it.  You’ve been part of creating a good an welcoming place at D20, so as far as I’m concerned. you are doing good so far.
Ben
P.S. For those of you who are voting, I won’t suggest who you vote for, but would ask one thing:  None of this is as simplistic as it is portrayed.  Don’t get stubborn in either direction because of what someone else tries to tell you to do.  Take the time to really look at the candidates and decide who you want to represent and act for you for the next 4 years once all the ads are done and it is just working at the highest pressure, most intense job in the country, and who you would least like to see in that role.  We’ve seen from previous elections that they are not all the same and who is there has real and lasting consequences for all of us. And go and vote….

  

So I shoplifted as a kid. An open letter to my D20 kids about shoplifting..

“I couldn’t understand how I went from feeling such a good feeling of being clever and getting away with being better then the system to having what felt like a physical pit in my stomach and a flush of shame that I was convinced would never, ever go away…”

The other day, we caught some kids figuring out how to scam the card machine at the store.  These weren’t bad kids, but it didn’t even occur to them that they were stealing, or if it did, they didn’t draw the line to the wrong of it.  So I decided to pull out a story that I’ve only told a few people about what happened with me when I shoplifted at about the same age that these kids did.

Stealing and shoplifting are a fact of life for a store like D20, and what you would only know if you actually did the books at the end of the month, is that while the stealing is a fairly small percentage of our sales, so is the profit that we end up with each month, and that little bit of stealing here and there, really hurts us a lot.

But that is never my first thought when we catch someone stealing, particularly a kid.  I know, from personal experience, that moment in time can be the point where someone chooses what kind of person they want to be.  This is the time when …

The Case for Family Game Night

The_Chess_GameThe case for Family Game Night.
I see a lot of families come into the store and see how they interact with each other.
  • “It’s his/her thing” There are a lot of kids dropped off with parents who through their hands up in the air about understanding the games the kids are playing, but are just happy their noses are out of screens.
  •  “If only they knew…” There are kids who have no idea that their parents sill have 10-12 year-olds living inside that are a little surprised every time they look in the mirror and see adults looking back, who used to play when we were kids and are a lot cooler then they can see though offspring-tinted glasses.
  • “Alright..enough you two!” There are parents who have the weary look of having tried to get the kids playing with each other or them and had such a bad time with tantrums born of games being taken as some sort of form of personal attack.
  • “Game on!” And then there are parents who’ve somehow, by joyful force of will or family legacy, who have incorporated regular playing games together as a family into their lives.
There is something beyond special about these families.  I’m truly not saying that as the dude who sells board games, but there is something about they way these families interact with each other.  An ease of conversation, a gentle teasing that goes both ways, that creates a sense of longing and envy in me every time I see it. And it makes me determined to do whatever I can to try and help foster that in every family, including my own.  I’m resolved this year to do eveything I can to help make a culture that says that in our community, in Alameda, that we pick one night a week to look at each other’s faces, rather then our screens, that we put down the lists and logistics for a couple of hours in exchange for interaction, connection and hopefully a bit of laughter.  That we realize that time we spend on this is not bonus playtime, but the work of making ourselves and our kids, the people we want to be.
Of course I’m going to push games into this slot, because that’s what I do, but obviously the same connections can come from hiking, playing sports, or building a rocket together. Just get away from the screens and look each other in the eyes.
Here are a few hints/observations that I’ve seen for those who have been able to make this work:
  1. Get regular.  A lot of the resistance to getting off screens or spending time together goes away when that time is considered sacred.  It will very likely be hard to get this going at first.  Part of what I want to do is have the kids be the ones who are pushing for this and rewarded in the store for making happen.
  2. Get out of your comfort zone.  Let different members of the family pick the game each week and have everyone look at it as a way to find the most fun out of the game.  Sometimes only finding the one game that everyone likes becomes almost impossible.  Besides, if you only experience that smallest section of that intersection, then no one gets what they most like,and everyone else misses out on tasting something new.
  3. Teasing ok, shaming not so much.  A lot of hurt feeling get hidden under playful poking at each other…if you need to set some limits on this, do so a head of time.
  4. If competition  is a problem, go co-op.  Fair play and good sportsmanship are super important, and can be incredibly draining and no fun to deal with as referees each time you play. There are a ton of great games where the game itself is the opponent, and each of you are working to beat it together.  These games are great for this situation.
  5. Advice on request only:  One thing that can kill games for everybody if one of the players is the “You should do this” guy.  People like to be smart for themselves, so instituting the “Can I give you a suggestion?” rule is a very good idea, particularly when you team it with “its ok to let other people make mistakes…its just a game”
  6. Designate a “prepared guy/gal”. If you are going to be playing a new game, make sure somebody is assigned to be the person who checks out the game before everyone plays to be the rules jedi.  Nothing bores players more then trying to puzzle out the rules of a new game together for 50 minutes before you play.
  7. Share the mantra:  Model for the kids the D20 Mantra
    • Win with Grace
    • Lose with Style
    • Play for Joy
  8. Share joy, not expectations. A lot of parents get frustrated when their kids would rather stick their heads in the screen then do the things the parents wish they could share.  .
  9. For the parents…lighten up. 😉  We get so locked into being parents that we forget what it is like to be kids. Be kids with your kids…show them what that’s like.  And related to that, don’t turn up your nose at some of the games the kids like if they have adolescent humor or even violence.  They are adolescent, and conflict as one of the things that makes games (and) entertainment fun is utterly normal.  (Shakespeare’s characters knocked each other off with stunning regularity.)  I’m not condoning hateful or truly offensive stuff, but just remember what it was like to be a kid, and also remember that while when we were kids, we tended to play in gender separated groups, that as familes, we need to cross a lot of things we might not normally like to find common ground.
What I’m going to do to get this started is create a pledge card for the store.  Anyone who pledges (and really means it) to do a family game night at least twice a month, I’ll give them a special in-store goodies (or discount) tbd. If this rings true with you and seems worth it, I’d like to ask for help in trying to make this something bigger then just the store in the community.  My goal would be to have Alameda take some pride in being a community that has committed to this, and let’s see what kind of results it has on our lives.   If you want to help and have ideas, email me back and we’ll set up a time to get together and figure it out.  The best things I’ve ever done, have been done by cool people around me.
Have a great week and go play.  😉

Parents back to school Guide for Trading Card Games

Or how to send your kid off to school with their beloved trading cards and get both back happy and whole…

Private Note to (fellow) Parents: Ok…now that school is back in session, a few parent to parent bits of advice about collectible card games during the school year.  

First…what are TCG’s (Trading card games)?  Imagine making a game with baseball cards, where the what’s on the card can affect the game.  The games are played by putting together decks of cards to battle each other.

What is good about the games (from a parent standpoint?) If you strip down the fantasy elements and pictures, what you get is math, logic, motivated reading and a chance to get the kids face to face, not face to screen.   They are also great motivators for getting homework, chores and other needed carrots to counterbalance our sticks. See our other post, the Guide to Trading Card Games, for the full skinny.  But the rest of this is specifically to help us parents in understanding the deal, and getting ahead of potential issues that might come up.    (You may notice that we don’t include Yugioh in our list of these games. Yugioh is a very popular game, but we do not encourage kids to play it, and in fact have banned it at D20 Games, something we did not do lightly.)

  1. source chzbgr.com

    Trading Issues: 80% of issues between kids that come up with kids at school regarding cards have to do with what end up being unfair (either intentional or unintentional) trades between the kids. Some of these cards can be worth real money, and nothing makes a kid feel worse then discovering that an older or more experience player took advantage of them.  As we say to the kids: there is no piece of paper that is worth a friend.

    We have three specific bits of advice for the kids regarding this:

    • Trade-backs are ALWAYS ok.. Make sure that your kid understands to always make the agreement that it is ok to trade back cards within a week or so, provided that the cards are still in the same shape, This way, if they go back home and find out that it was a bad deal, like they got pressured, or if they just want their cards back, they can do it.
    • Check prices if you aren’t sure;  For Magic cards, we use Channelfireball.com for our pricing (though we do $1 min for rares and .50 for other cards). Or for Pokemon (and if you aren’t sure) you can always look on eBay. (BTW..always look at Sold listings, not regular.  You can see what people really buy things for.)  For Pokemon, we use the Sold listings on Ebay.
    • If bad trades happen, remember the feeling, and be a good guy: No matter what you do, there will come a point where there is a rotten trade that will make your kid feel just horrible.  Believe it or not, this is a key (and good) moment for them to have under your care. They have the choice next time to take advantage of someone like they were taken advantage of, or to make sure to never make someone else feel the way they felt.
  2. Avoiding Stolen stuff at school:  Kids will want to bring in their cards to both play with other kids and to show off their good cards.  Inevitably, when they aren’t looking, something will disappear, and much badness and sadness will ensue. A few ways to avoid this are the following.
    • Names in deck boxes….make sure to put enough info not only on the outside,but on the inside to make sure the decks can get back to you guys. (The outside tends to rub off)
    • Card sleeves…These cost about $4 and not only protect the cards (and keep decks from disappearing into the big mush of cards back home) but keep kids cards from getting mixed up with the person they are playing with. It also provides quick identification if a card starts walking away.
    • Side-Loading Binders:  Lots of kids bring their good cards in the same box as their deck. What happens is that while they are playing a game, someone comes over to look at their trades, and while the kid is distracted, a card or two gains feet.   Bringing in a small binder for the trades/show off cards is a better idea. We strongly advise getting binders that have what are called side-loading pages.  Rather then putting in the cards in slots in the top, and having the turn it over, dump out problem, these go in from the sides in a way that doesn’t fall out.  More importantly it is kind of tricky to get the cards out, making it MUCH more obvious if someone is being a little light fingered.  Remember, just as with the deck boxes, make sure there is enough info somewhere inside the binder to get them back to you.
  3. Keeping Score:  A huge number of silly fights happen between kids because they try and keep the score for the games in their heads. At some point, inevitably, you will get the “but you are at 6!  No, I’m at 13 argument that leaves each kid thinking the other is a lying jerk. Paper, Dice or even some special deckboxes with score wheels built in are a great solution to this.
  4. Losing is just fine: Reminding kids that every time they lose, they learn something new is great.  Kids will often get so tied up with the social value of winning that they get tempted to cheat, not really putting together how much worse the rep they will get for cheating.
  5. Packs are great homework/housework motivators.  Kids that are playing Pokemon or Magic are always seriously motivated by getting to open a new pack.  While my own kids may hear me with the “wah-wah” sound of a Peanuts parent, for other people, I’m the guy behind the counter at D20, a bully pulpit if there ever was one.  Give me a nod and I’m happy to back-up whatever you are working on.  Tying a pack a week to getting the homework done is a great way to do some positive motivation.  (We’re working on something more official as time goes on…keep tuned)

Guide to Tabletop Games# 2 Deck Building Games

 

If games like Magic and Pokemon (Trading Card Games) are games where you build a deck to go and play each other, deck builders are games where you start with tiny decks, and part of playing the game is competing to acquire the cards to make your deck better. Most people who like the trading card games end up really liking deck building games, though they may not realize it.  The other big difference with deck building games is that while there are usually expansions, there isn’t the collectible card component so when you buy the game, you are usually all set.

The standard mechanic in the game is to have a set of cards that are used to buy stuff(usually better cards that you then add to your deck)  and another that are used to defeat stuff (usually to gain you points).  A typical starting deck for these games is between 10-12, with have drawn and played each turn.  As soon as you acquire a new card, it goes into your discard pile, and when you’ve used all the cards you have, that pile is shuffled up and becomes your new deck.  The more cool stuff you acquire, the better your deck becomes. Another common feature of the games is that there tend to be factions of cards that help each other out, oh, and the really great cards tend to cost a lot more.  It is almost always a strategic struggle between decking to add cards that give you more of the getting stuff power vs. the attacking power.

The first major deck building game was the medieval themed Dominion back in 2008

Dominion

 

 

Other great deck building games include the Ascension series as well as the Marvel Legendary Deckbulder series.

Star_Realms_Game
Star Realms

The most recent (and store favorite) add to the game is Star Realms, which changes the attack stuff mechanic, to attack, well, the other players…very, very, very fun.

From Wired Review of Ascension
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